The NBA’s second season kicks off this weekend with back-to-back quadruple headers. Don’t miss out on what promises to be an exciting and possibly legendary postseason.
[Editor’s Note: We’ll be recapping/analyzing/discussing the NBA Playoffs on a daily basis. I say “we” because I’m supposed to have help. If you want to join the party, give us a shout.]
(1) Bulls vs. (8) 76ers
Why the Bulls will win: Philadelphia is a talented defensive team. They have enough athletic wing players to harass Chicago and force difficult shots. Unfortunately, the Bulls defense is even tougher. The Bulls also rebound better and have a significantly better bench. Worst of all, the 76er offense is pitiful in pressure situations.
How the 76ers could win: A Derrick Rose injury would certainly help. But even that wouldn’t be enough. Lou Williams would need to play like Allen Iverson circa 2001 for Philly to even dream of pulling the upset.
The Pick: Bulls in 5.
(2) Heat vs. (7) Knicks
Why the Heat will win: LeBron James is still the best basketball player on the planet. Even if Carmelo Anthony averages 40 points, I can’t see the Knicks winning more than two games. Let’s not forget that LeBron and Dwyane Wade are fierce competitors, too. If Melo goes off, don’t you think either Wade or LeBron (or both) will rise to the occasion to go mano-a-mano with Melo? At the very least, it should be an entertaining series.
How the Knicks could win: Melo plays lights out. J.R. Smith and Steve Novak shoot 45-50% from three. Amare Stoudmire figures out how to play defense. The Knicks find a second lock-down perimeter defender.
The Pick: Heat in 6.
(3) Pacers vs. (6) Magic
Why the Pacers will win: 1. Dwight Howard quit on his coach and teammates so God punished him for being a phony by causing Howard’s back to explode. 2. The Pacers are possibly the hungriest team in the East. No team wants to prove themselves more than Indiana. 3. Reason number one again.
How the Magic could win: The Pacers overlook the Magic or panic against a team with absolutely nothing to lose. Or, Orlando has a time machine and goes back four months to trade Howard to LA for Andrew Bynum and inserts him into the lineup to terrorize Roy Hibbert.
The Pick: Pacers in 6.
(4) Celtics vs. (5) Hawks
Why the Celtics will win: Experience. Defense. Rajon Rondo. The best news for Boston fans? Every one of the Celtics postseason games will air on National TV. Rondo has proven to be unstoppable under the bright lights. Also, Al Horford won’t be on the court to protect the rim and rebound.
How the Hawks could win: Without Horford, Atlanta lacks toughness and a physical presence inside. To win, the Hawks will need Josh Smith to dominate the paint even though he avoids it like the plague and Joe Johnson will have to play like he’s worth his horrific contract.
The Pick: Celtics in 5.
(1) Spurs vs. (8) Jazz
Why the Spurs will win: The Spurs are on a mission to win a title and prove 2011’s collapse was a fluke. Also, as big and tough as Utah is inside, they can’t play a lick of defense. So, while Utah may have success inside on the offensive end, they’ll be run off the court on the defensive end. Getting into a shootout with the Spurs is a death sentence. The 2011 Grizzlies were big and tough like the Jazz, but Memphis also played exceptional defense. The Jazz don’t know what defense is.
How the Jazz could win: An injury to two of San Antonio’s big three.
The Pick: Spurs sweep.
(2) Thunder vs. (7) Mavericks
Why the Thunder will win: They’re too talented. Dallas will struggle to contain Oklahoma City’s stars. Shawn Marion can’t defend three players at once. Dallas lost just about all its supporting cast (at least the important ones) from its 2011 title team.
How the Mavericks could win: It’s not happening. The Mavericks aren’t the same defensively without Tyson Chandler and the crazy dude with Abe Lincoln tattooed on his neck (DeShawn Stephenson). Besides, who’s going to provide the scoring punch after Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry? JJ Barea is gone, Vince Carter retired three years ago, and Delonte West is a few days away from sleeping with Dirk’s mom and ruining team chemistry. The king is dead.
The Pick: Thunder sweep.
(3) Lakers vs. (6) Nuggets
Why the Nuggets will win: George Karl is a smart coach. I’m sure he watched the Spurs dismantle the Lakers by 20+ points twice in the same week. How’d the Spurs do it? They ran the Lakers into the ground. What does Denver do so well? They run teams into the ground. Where does Denver play? Denver. What’s hard for opposing teams to do in Denver? Run for long periods when not conditioned to high altitude.
How the Lakers could win: Put a shot limit on Kobe Bryant and tell him once he reaches that ceiling, he’s done for the game. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol have to win this series. Slow the game down and let those bruisers pound Denver’s frontcourt. If Los Angeles can keep the Nuggets from making this a track meet, they’ll be fine.
The Pick: Nuggets in 7, because I can’t pick every favorite. Plus, Charles Barkley says so.
(4) Grizzlies vs. (5) Clippers
Why the Grizzlies will win: Defense, defense, defense. Chris Paul is a great player, but he’s not all that quick, which means Tony Allen can guard him down the stretch. Also, outside of Paul, the Clippers can’t score late in games and Blake Griffin will be mostly a non-factor after the 3rd quarter. Defensively, I don’t see how the Clippers can handle Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, AND Zack Randolph.
How the Clippers could win: Well, Paul defeated the Lakers twice by himself in last year’s playoffs, so he’s certainly capable of swinging a series. However, Memphis is as physical a team as there is in the league. If Paul were to exert himself for a full game, he’d have nothing left in crunch time. For Los Angeles to win, they’ll need another player or two to step up in a huge way. Randy Foye, did you hear that? How about you, Moe Williams? Blake, DeAndre, Caron; you guys listening?
The Pick: Grizzlies in 6.